Mental Wellness for Caregivers – 5 Quick Tips

Do you worry?

I know I do.

Caregivers often encounter unexpected crises and need to make complex medical decisions on a moment’s notice for the loved ones under our care. Difficult questions can continue to weigh on you when you most need to rest. Your mind keeps wandering back to a jungle of gloom and doom.

I was having one of those less than perfect days recently, so I sat down for a quick cup of tea. What I needed was something to lift my spirits.

Leafing through the day’s newspaper looking for anything that would inspire me or make me laugh, I came across a very brief article about ways to stay upbeat when you may not feel so positive.

The first comment by Matthew Ferry, a life coach, startled me.

Realize that your mind’s job is to keep you safe, not happy.

In other words, your mind naturally looks for things that could go wrong so that you can protect yourself.  All this time, I had been thinking that there was something wrong with me for worrying.

It turns out that I’m not alone.  Everyone needs to control their thoughts to remain positive.

Here are some tips and techniques that I have gathered over the past few years to help a caregiver with little time and lots of responsibilities stay on the sunny side of the street.

1.Make time for activities that give you enjoyment. Even a few minutes to enjoy a cup of tea or take a brisk walk can rejuvenate you. But, be careful about reading the newspaper or watching TV. Too much of today’s news fuels anxiety.

2. When you are feeling tense or fearful, stop and take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Are you clenching your jaw or squeezing your shoulders? Breathe slowly a few more times to relax.

3. Do you have a fear lurking in the corner of your mind that you keep trying to push down but it keeps coming back?

I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened. — Mark Twain

Recognize that many of your fears are unfounded. We scare ourselves by imagining negative outcomes that will never happen.

There are many techniques for overcoming fear. One of my favorites is to imagine I’m holding a large chalkboard eraser. I stretch my arm up to the top of the image in my mind and begin to mentally sweep back and forth with my arm as if I was erasing chalk from the board. (Use a white board if that’s more familiar to you.)

In my mind’s eye, I watch the negative image disappear.  My negative feelings also begin to slide away. By the time I am done erasing the image, my tight stomach is gone.

Then, construct a positive image to replace the fear.

If I’m worried about another person’s reaction, I visualize that person reacting positively to what I have just told them. We work out any differences and part company, happy that each of our needs were met.

Another approach is to remember a time that you triumphed in the face of fear.

New experiences always feel a little scary. By remembering how you managed to get past your fear and succeed the last time, you set the stage to do it again. Feel that glow of triumph again. You CAN do whatever it is you have to do.

4. Sometimes a fear or worry won’t go away.

Roger Callahan, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology, Syracuse Univeristy)  came up with a amazingly fast method for anyone to rid themselves of fears. In Tapping the Healer Within : Using Thought-Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Fears, Anxieties, and Emotional Distress,  Callahan describes his method of combining light tapping of several acupressure points with expressing thoughts about an emotion to release it permanently.

Callahan’s technique has been acknowledged by a number of highly regarded professionals (Jack Canfield, Deepak Chopra, Joe Vitale) for its effectiveness. Another name for it is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). And, the technique can be used for pain and disease management, too. It is easy to do anywhere.

5. Practice gratitude every day. Make a list of 10 (or more!) things in your life for which you are grateful. They can be people like your family, things like your car or personal attributes like being in good health.  Review this list first thing in the morning and right before bed. The law of attraction dictates that we get more of whatever we focus our minds on. By counting our blessings each morning and evening, we set the stage to receive even more. If you only have time to try one of these tips, try this one for a week. You will notice a happy difference.

Do you have a mental wellness tip not mentioned here? Please leave a comment to share it with others.

Oh, and thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to read this post!

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